Michael Cysouw, Mihai Albu, Andreas Dress
September 25, 2009
In this note, we present three methods to discover the most consistent features in the World Atlas of Languages Structures (WALS). These methods measure the fit between each individual WALS feature and the overall dataset of all features combined. Features that show a strong fit to the overall dataset are hypothesised to be more central for the structure of human language than those features that show a weak fit. The three techniques we will use are based on (i) Mantel′s congruence test (MANTEL 1967), (ii) the evaluation of feature coherence relative to the overall dataset, and (iii) the comparisons of ranks. All three methods attempt to identify those features that fit best to the dataset in its entirety, though it turns out that they do not identify exactly the same features. Still, we are able to give some indications of the kind of features that appear to be most promising for future research. Finally, we investigate whether such highly consistent features might be suitable to uncover genealogical relationships between languages.